Shelby Lum / Lantern photographer
Lajuan Foster has spent almost every day from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for the past nine months cleaning the 18th Avenue Library.
“I’m used to doing this now,” Foster said, as she scrubbed the sink in the first floor women’s bathroom Monday. “If they need me anywhere else, I’ll go.”
But Foster doesn’t work for Ohio State. She works for the janitorial services at Goodwill – a branch of the same company that owns thrift stores.
“We’re contracted with OSU, so that’s how I got the job,” Foster said.
Goodwill is one of four companies to which OSU awarded contracts last fall. The contracts, which were effective Nov. 5, replaced agreements that expired June 30, said Lindsay Komlanc, spokeswoman for Administration and Planning, in an email.
“Ohio State assured we received competitive prices for the services and used the opportunity to consolidate the number of companies providing these services from 12 to four to improve administrative efficiencies and oversight,” she said.
Contracting with these companies in a more consolidated manner helped save the university an estimated $2 million annually, Komlanc said.
Goodwill’s contract is for $500,000 annually, and it cleans about nine buildings, including the 18th Avenue Library, Independence Hall, the Ice Rink and Ohio Stadium. The other contracted companies include Olympus, which is based in New Jersey, The King’s, which has a headquarters in St. Louis and SBM Management Services, which has a location in Blue Ash, Ohio.
None of the four companies returned request for comment Monday.
OSU pays Olympus $2.7 million annually to clean about 46 buildings, including Hopkins Hall, Weigel Hall and the Wexner Medical Center. The Kings is paid $1.5 million annually to clean about 15 buildings including Jennings Hall, the Psychology Building and Campbell Hall. SMB is paid $900,000 annually to clean about 36 buildings including the hangars at OSU’s University Airport and Maintenance Building, the Veterinary Hospital and Blankenship Hall.
These contracts cover less than 30 percent of OSU Columbus campus’ about 450 buildings.
“We are a very large campus and have found that using a mix of in-house custodial staff as well as outside vendors is an efficient way to meet our diverse maintenance needs,” Komlanc said in the email.
After a year of controversy over certain contracts with outside vendors, the university maintains that it will only contract in the peripheries, and that the academic core will not be affected by outside vendors.
Last June, the OSU Board of Trustees approved leasing OSU’s roughly 36,000 parking spots to an outside vendor for a $483 million, 50-year contract. The deal with QIC Global Infrastructure, an Australia-based investment company, gave the company control over the operations of parking garages, lots and permit sales on campus. CampusParc handles the day-to-day operations.
CampusParc took over operations of Ohio State’s parking garages, ground lots and permit sales in September.
In the months during the search for a parking vendor, OSU experienced some resistance from its staff members, students and other community members. Since then, the parking debates have died down.
OSU President E. Gordon Gee said in a meeting with The Lantern‘s editorial staff on March 25 that privatizing parking was a “smart” idea for the university, but he would never consider privatizing something that was core to the university mission.
“I would never – they would have to strap me to a log and send me down the Olentangy (River), but privatizing things like housing or dining or whether I think those are really core educational functions for the university,” Gee said.
Komlanc said in her email the majority of the academic core buildings are serviced by the Facilities Operations and Development custodial staff – save for the handful, such as the 18th Avenue Library, that are cleaned by the contracted companies.
In those cases, Komlanc said sometimes other companies can just do a better job.
“Because our campus community has some very unique needs in terms of clinical space, research space and other needs specific to the type of business in each of our spaces, it is critical that we maintain a consistent level of service for our customers,” Komlanc said in the email. “Using outside vendors is one way we can ensure consistent availability of custodial staff to meet these needs.”
Gee said this sort of situation can happen across the academic core.
“There may be times when there could be people that could do better than we can,” Gee said. “But the issue is there’s no subterranean attempt by the university to move toward privatization of those areas. I think, because those are educationally important, mission-driven activities at the university.”
Morris Kendall, an FOD employee, has worked at OSU for about 14 years and hasn’t noticed a difference in the last several months. Kendall works from 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. cleaning the 209 W. 18th Avenue building.
“(I) just go around and do what I gotta do,” he said.
The contracts didn’t make much of a difference to Foster, either. She said since the contract took effect in November, she hasn’t changed the way she does her job.
“It don’t really matter to me,” Foster said. “All I know is I’m here at this one.”